COPD app may help reduce exacerbations

COPD app may help reduce exacerbations

Written by Timothy Huzar on November 16, 2020 — Fact checked by Hannah Flynn, MS

A new feasibility study has found that an app supporting self-managed care for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may help reduce exacerbations.

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New research has found that people with COPD may benefit from the use of a self-management app.

The feasibility study, which appears in the journal npj Digital Medicine, lays the groundwork for future studies. The next steps will be to confirm the initial findings and develop a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the promising results.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD describes a number of diseases, which include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In these conditions, the airways become blocked, which results in the person having difficulty breathing.

Approximately 15.7 million people in the United States — equating to roughly 6.4% of the population — have received a diagnosis of COPD.

Smoking is a key cause of COPD, but research has also linked the condition to respiratory infections and exposure to air pollutants, as well as genetic factors.

COPD can have a significant negative effect on an individual’s life. It can cause difficulty moving around, including climbing stairs, and can impair a person’s ability to work and socialize. Experts have also linked COPD to mental health issues, including depression.

One of the challenges for health services working with people with COPD is the high rate of readmission following treatment in the hospital.

The authors of the present study note that people with COPD typically receive treatment in the hospital when they experience an “acute crisis” — for example, a sudden worsening of their symptoms. Following the resolution of the acute crisis, the hospital normally discharges the individual.

However, this can leave little time for healthcare professionals to support the person and address the underlying factors that caused the acute crisis in the first place.

Research has shown that giving people the tools to self-manage their COPD while at home can reduce their rate of readmission to the hospital. However, giving this support can be beyond the resources available to many publicly funded hospitals.

As a consequence, the authors of the present study wanted to see whether a COPD self-management app could offer this support.


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